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House of Virgin Mary - WIP

edited January 21 in Painting
I got commissioned to do the House of Virgin Mary.

I need some suggestions on how to handle the background (above the house). When I tried painting the branches it looked spooky, flat and crowded. 

How do I emulate distant tree tops without going too spooky or weird?

Other Commission Requests:
- 14" x 18"
- Must be "Rustic"
- Must have Rosemary in the front planter
- Must have a grapevine growing on the wall
- Would like it to "feel" like it was when Mary lived there

Orignial Photo:

My rough oil sketch that got approved:



  • That's a tough photo @Norquist. I mean the stonework of the building is gorgeous but the overall composition is difficult. Maybe fiddle with it Photoshop first to see if you can't improve the crop and bring out more detail in the big tree trunk. The background trees I'd make bluer and greyer with less detail to give atmospheric perspective and set them more in the distance.
  • @Norquist  they would have had me at the first "must" - ,,,,,,,,,  had me, as in, over and out...   

    were you not even able to crop?  geez.  I would starve if I had to do commissions -  ask them if they would like Baby Jesus in the door with a Wiseman - that would make it more clear it was at the time Mary was alive    :)

    sorry, can't help you with your query...…….   @tassieguy seems to have a beautiful solution (and much more tolerant of the client)  

  • Soften edges on background trees and make slightly lighter shadows (don't use black) on the trees. the fore ground tree could be a little lighter than the sketch to get rid of the spookiness. The concrete in the dome at top and the entryway look very 20th century. A clay pot (the night potty) about 1&1/2 gallon size with a colorful but small blanket neatly folded over the top and maybe a much larger vessel or basket would give it a more lived in look. Blankets of the period usually had one or two stripes at  the bottom and top. Burnt orange, reddish brown and natural wool with black stripes are authentic colors for the period. A bright blue sky would be appropriate for the sunlit bricks and serve also for a lived in appearance and cure the spookiness. 
  • @tassieguy - I'll definitely try the atmospheric perspective and see how that looks. It is a tricky composition but they have a very specific place for it so it needs to fit the dimensions... 

  • Is that the space where the painting is going to go?
  • @Julianna - yes, they want the option to frame so they chose 14"x18". Also they want to have things on the shelf and not obstruct the painting. 

  • @BOB73 - I'm thinking of making the tree smaller/ younger. This might also help the composition. I'm using Van Dyke Brown for the first time. I guess it does translate as black so I'll watch for that. 

    Yeah I've been thinking about adding some of those "life" touches. Not sure how to go about it yet. Probably going to make another oil sketch and try different things.

  • The updated painting looks like you are meeting the challenge.  Good for you!
  • good work, leave the building alone. watch out for the values in the nearer tree branches/foliage. You're getting there
  • Rich_ARich_A -
    edited January 22
    If this was going to hang in my prayer space I would add beams of light shining in the doorway with mists of light. Some doves flying to liven this up and make it joyous. 

  • edited January 22
    The building is looking good. I'll be interested to see what you do with the vegetation. I'm a bit sorry that lovely old gnarled tree trunk is being eliminated. :)
  • @Norquist Thank you so much for this. I had no knowledge of this place.  I reviewed some available pics and at times there is no foliage behind it. I think you can greatly simply this and use very little behind it, possibly only sky.  I am with @tassieguy on the tree in front.  It’s a character element which your client may not want but perhaps you can convince them.  
    In a small painting like this you can do a lot with a little.  There is no reason to paint every rock if you make it obvious it’s a rock house.  Good start at this point.  I look forward to the progress pics.
  • PaulBPaulB mod
    Wow, that's good. Great work with the stones.  The roof looks a bit of an indistinct blob, but then again it does in the photo too.  Some form shading maybe?
  • @PaulB Lol thats what my husband said. Im currently touching up on it right now
  • PaulBPaulB mod
    Great.  I see in the photo there's a curved line, a joint between the stonework perhaps.  That would be good to add.
  • Even just softening the top edge would work I think..
  • @PaulB Good eye, I love that idea. 
  • Have have we seen this before?
  • @alsart  I started this back in November I think. But it's only been on this discussion/thread. Or do you mean someone else in the community has painted this house?
  • very beautiful @Norquist :) the light and shadows on the stone structure look v good and the vines...
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